Slinky Slim

Day 121 Week 18 Q2 Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Sometimes, a seemingly unpopular choice can yield an extremely popular outcome. Like other creative folks, musicians often do not have a lot of extra cash lying around. This frequently causes creative outliers to be creative about the tools they use. 

Can you imagine a thin, lightweight, resonant hollowbody, laminate jazz guitar with a classic trapeze tailpiece sporting two humbucking pickups? This instrument, which costs only a little bit more than having a piano tuned, provides flexible, organic, nuanced, yet muscular plugged-in tones. It’s a versatile tool that can open up a world of possibilities for your music.

Well, initially, neither could I until I discovered that some overseas manufacturers produce sub $200 instruments of professional quality. These instruments, which look and play like they could have cost five times as much, are a breath of fresh air for musicians who are often burdened by the high costs of their craft.

When contemplating going out to perform in situations that might compromise expensive, valuable instruments, bringing one of these is a no-brainer. If you are judged more by the label of the instrument you play instead of by how well you play, then you have a problem. The only legitimate gear question should be, can it do the job? Many jazz and rock musicians who own expensive instruments play them at home, not when touring, because the outside world can be a tough place for fragile instruments, and worrying about your instrument is not conducive to playing well. 

Logistics hugely impacts art and its creation. Although classical orchestral instruments have not changed much in the last hundred or more years and usually look very much the same, the same is not true for the world of popular people’s music forms, from country to hip-hop, including everything between.

Lately, I have been astounded by just how good, significantly lower-cost electric fretted string instruments can sound. I own some classic instruments, which are too valuable to ever be unsupervised. And if you perform in public, this is often the case. I mean, people do have to go to the bathroom occasionally.

I very much doubt that most of the world can sonically tell the difference between a $50,000 guitar and a $500 guitar. Sure, there are placebo effects, and you might be more inclined to play well-handed a work of art to perform on, but the fear of calamity more than outweighs the positive psychological benefits.

Oh, and one more thing: if you plan on performing with an instrument, that is also the one you tend to need to practice on and be calibrated to. If you were getting ready to drive a truck cross-country, you would not warm up by driving a sports car.

The thing is, unlike the truck and sports car comparison, if I told people I paid $2000 for my sub $200 Slinky Slim guitar, hardly anyone could tell the difference. This is not just a theory because I have performed and recorded albums with less expensive instruments and gotten terrific feedback. The thing is, I do not have to worry at all about the low-cost instrument, and here in New England, extreme temperature and humidity changes wreak havoc with delicate wooden string instruments. I have spent more repairing some instruments than buying Slinky Slim. 

Now, I can not help but wonder about the metaphor embedded here. How much of the price is a manipulation that is not genuinely based on real value? And does this translate into having a terrific life without being rich?

There is no doubt of this. And if you are a creative outlier waiting to make it big to be rich enough to have a great time, give it up. I know of many people who have more fun driving their $2000 sports car than others have, with cars costing 100 times as much. And other artistic types with fabulous souls look oh so much better in a T-shirt and jeans than others in designer suits.

Just saying that some pay a hundred times more to get a hundred times more hassle and one-hundredth the fun.

See if you can take money out of the happiness equation and stop worrying about bragging rights.